Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Blogging: I'm only leaving the posts public

"any way you can close comments but leave the posts public? That's a real bummer for people that are trying to access older posts. . . .

[T]he flesh and blood people we live and work with are more important than the online friendships and discussions. But. . . ."

--via email conversation, one of my online friends has persuaded me, but I'm only leaving the posts public (not blogging).

PS: if you're linking here and want that noted in the sidebar, then email jkgayle thelittleATsymbol gmai L theDOTthingANDcom.

ditto: if you're in the sidebar but no longer linking here, then shoot me a message to drop your blog from that little roll there.

Friday, June 19, 2009


The blogs Aristotle's Feminist Subject
and The womBman's bible
will shut down tomorrow morning (June 20, 2009).

Please feel free to access any open posts or files there until then. Afterwards, you'll have to access things by emailing

Please also feel free to remove, if you're one of the few who have still them, any links in your blogrolls and such.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Stuff of Blogging: but I must be moving on

"One needs to know Aristotle and Plato. One needs it desperately. One must have Leopold and Pascal. Must! I mean desperately,"

says Maya Angelou,

"if one is to be at ease anywhere."

And she adds:

"One should have read the African folk tale to see what the West African calls deep thinking. One must worry over ideas that if I come forward how far do we have to go before we meet? And when we meet will I go through you and you go through me and continue until we meet somewhere else? This is an African concept. Do we stay once we meet or do I actually go right through you and pass through you and continue on that road. Is that what life is?"


I wonder if Maya Angelou would blog with us. I doubt Aristotle would.


Here's something I've wanted to say for some time:

You matter. Do you believe that? You are important regardless of how you may have been abused, silenced, neglected, or ignored.

Did you know that Aristotle completely ignored some people? Why is our knowing that so important? Isn't it because often we look to powerful people (like Aristotle) to justify or to excuse behaviors?

Yes, Aristotle in all of the many many things he wrote never once mentioned Aspasia. This is quite an omission considering the fact that Aristotle wrote lots of things about lots of people (and even a few things about just a few women, a few of whom he managed to name). It's also peculiar that Aristotle would neglect writing anything whatsoever about Aspasia because so many others who impressed Aristotle actually wrote and talked about how impressed they were by her. These other men include Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Pericles. Of course, they did acknowledge that she was not Athenian, not even Greek properly; was not a man; and was not even a woman who was married but was perhaps a woman who took money for sex with many men; was not a philosopher but was, rather, a mere rhetorician who took money for speeches she wrote and for rhetoric she taught. So the story goes. But Aristotle, perhaps characteristically, gives Aspasia the silent treatment. I say "perhaps characteristically" because he says so much more about men than he does about women. And he names his most famous treatise on ethics after his father and his son, both named Nikomachus; but he never does anything like that for his mother Phaestis or his concubine (second wife) Herpyllis who bore him his son or his wife Pythias who bore him only a daughter, whom he named Pythias after her mother. Then, again, he studied males and females very carefully and concluded by his logic that females are defective males. When, then, should he write anything about Aspasia? Aspasia does matter. Do you believe that? Aspasia is important not just because a few men did write a history of her once upon a time. Socrates and Jesus and Rahab and Sarah, for example, are not important only because a few men who knew them included them in their histories. Aspasia is important because she considered others important too. She taught Pericles, we're told. She taught Socrates the famous dialectic method, some have observed, the method of investigation and classroom learning in much of the world, starting in the Western world.

Writing Aspasia into history as mainly a prostitute, or writing her out of history altogether, diminishes the value of her contributions to you. In other words, she really may matter to you. And you do matter.


Didn't you just love it when James McGrath said: "I'm tempted to go into Hebrews mode and say 'Time will not permit us to mention. . . '"? And then he goes on, just like the writer of Hebrews 11 does, and lists a number of others for us to read or to read about.


Have you taken time to read Christine de Pizan's Le Livre de la Cite des Dames (The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405)?

Or Christine's Livre de Trois Vertus or Le Tresor de la Cite des Dames (The Book of Three Virtues or The Book of the Treasury of Ladies)?

Are you familiar with why Laura Cereta wrote to Bibulus Sempronius? And who the women listed therein are? Or the reasons Laura wrote other letters naming women ignored?

Do you know how many women in U.S. history have run for president? Can you name six? Or three of them? Why does Elizabeth Cady Stanton say that man cannot speak for woman? And why does Karlyn Kohrs Campbell repeat that, why does she have to repeat that, in four volumes of the previously unwritten histories of women? Have you read even one?

Did you realize that women count in Bible translation? And have you been able to count many?

What must Rachel Barenblat mean by Head by Head?

Have you listened to women speaking out in the blogosphere? Read Suzanne's must-read list?

Not much of a reader, you say? Well then. Would you listen in on Carolyn James today (starting this Friday June 19, 2009) as she speaks with radio host Anita Lustrea and Nancy Kane (Associate Professor of Educational Ministries at Moody Bible Institute) on Lost Women of the Bible?

Any good ideas why "For the past twenty-five hundred years in Western culture, the ideal woman has been disciplined by cultural codes that require a closed mouth (silence), a closed body (chastity), and an enclosed life (domestic confinement)" or how and why Cheryl Glenn has to chronicle this history of yours and mine?


I'm still enjoying Ken Brown's book meme. Funny thing is, I was right on the cusp of stopping blogging altogether and forever, again, when Daniel and Tonya tagged me. Funny, one of their posts a while back taunted me back into blogging. Theirs and one or two of Joel Watts (aka Polycarp). And, ironically, one post by the now-sadly departed N. T. Wrong. I respect, and envy, former bloggers like N.T. Wright and Iyov. I had in fact never wanted to blog after graduate school. It's not that I can't continue reading desperately, (-as Maya Angelou does-), and still continue blogging too. It's that there are too many face-to-face relationships and self-transformation issues within these relationships, really, that blogging, for me anyway, can steal away from. I think I'm reading her "African folk tale." So don't get me started on the inefficiencies and absolute unproductivity of online arguing. I know (I think) why David Ker resists the memes these days despite several of us now (I've noticed) tagging him. I'm looking forward to seeing whether he relents. (UPDATE: Ha! Funny hippo, he's doing two memes at a time after muttering something about the insides of mutts and about Facebook.) And I'm looking forward to seeing if others tagged follow through. And I'm tagging Polycarp [Mr. Watts, How did I miss this post of yours? - thanks for the tag and the kind words - so I'm getting you back here :) ], Bob McDonald, Carolyn James, Rachel Barenblat, Hugo Schwyzer, Philip Sumpter, and Julia O'Brien - although I know some of you have already tagged at least two of these bloggers and at least two are away on summer vacations. Ken's meme started here.




Sometimes it feels like there aren't enough teaspoons in the world.

and when...

some are "now less concerned with sexism" as "documented at length in The Death of Feminism. What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom."


If you're not reading a crime novel (and I'm not - just finished Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper and she made me cry at least twice, all too close to home in my real life here), then don't stop reading just yet.

Just this evening or morning (where ever you are now), Jane Stranz blesses us by confessing something many of us may feel with her:

I fear I may think I'm writing a sermon - I did say speaking personally is not easy for me! I suppose I could say this - not being perfect, being aware of my responsibilities and limitations, always thinking about what I have not done ... weighs heavily on my mind and body, however, I do also have a great capacity to enjoy life.
My main problem tonight - I haven't got a crime novel to read!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

influences: on how I read the Bible

Here are 10 most immediate and lasting influences on how I read the Bible that were not named in the earlier post:
  1. Ruth Behar, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart
  2. Anne Carson, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
  3. Cheryl Glenn, Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance
  4. bell hooks, Yearning: race, gender, and cultural politics
  5. Gayl Jones, Corregidora
  6. Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
  7. Nancy Mairs, Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer
  8. Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  9. Krista Ratcliffe, Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness
  10. Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose
These writers and these works of theirs in various ways inform my readings of the Bible. Some of you wanted me to mention Willis Barnstone on jewish translation of the jewish new covenant; C. S. Lewis on second meanings and humble non-jewish christian reflections on the psalms; William Webb on hermeneutics and male, free, straight perspectives on women, slaves, and gays; Ann Nyland on classics and bible translation; Francis Schaeffer and my own son named at the end of postmodernist David Hopkins's essay rationalizing his own goatee; James K. A. Smith's fall of interpretation. And I really wanted to say something about Hélène Cixous and having to read her articles in translation only; and about Sherry Simon and Luise von Flotow and canadian feminist translating; and about Aspasia forgotten; and Maya Angelou's insistence on reading Aristotle. "Our Father has a bone to pick with this world," I want to quote instead; "... and oh, he picks it like a sore. Picks it with the Word. His punishment is the Word, and his deficiencies are failures of words as when he grows impatient with translation and strikes out precariously on his own, telling parables in his wildly half-baked Kikongo." (But then, if I did say that, you'd recognize I was quoting from "The Judges" of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and you might think it was one of Nathan Price's daughters.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

books on the book

υἱέ μου
βιβλία πολλά οὐκ ἔστιν περασμός
καὶ μελέτη πολλὴ κόπωσις σαρκός
--Solomon, wise even in Greek

Tonya and Daniel of The Hebrew and Greek Reader have posted their lists and have tagged some of us. Seems they'd been tagged in a meme by Ken Brown (of C. Orthodoxy), who writes:
1. Name the five books (or scholars) that had the most immediate and lasting influence on how you read the Bible. Note that these need not be your five favorite books, or even the five with which you most strongly agree. Instead, I want to know what five books have permenantly changed the way you think.

2. Tag five others.
Here goes (with 10 more unnamed):
  • Homer's most influenced how I read the Septuagint.
  • The Septuagint's most influenced how I read the rest of the Bible.
  • Then there's Kenneth Lee Pike (linguist, rhetorician, translator - who lets us view language N-dimensionally).
  • Then there's Jacqueline Jones Royster (afrafeminist, rhetorician, historian - who says the subjective position is everything).
  • And there's Philip Yancey (scholar? recovering).
Now I tag April DeConick, David Ker, Suzanne McCarthy, James McGrath, and Jane Stranz.

Monday, June 15, 2009

sexism in its most obvious form

Judge Guido Calabresi, former Yale Law School dean and [Sonia] Sotomayor's mentor, now says that when Sotomayor first joined the Court of Appeals, he began hearing rumors that she was overly aggressive, and he started keeping track, comparing the substance and tone of her questions with those of his male colleagues and his own questions.

"And I must say I found no difference at all. So I concluded that all that was going on was that there were some male lawyers who couldn't stand being questioned toughly by a woman," Calabresi says. "It was sexism in its most obvious form."

--from "Is Sonia Sotomayor Mean?" by Nina Totenberg

[HT Ann Friedman "Sotomayor is not meaner, just femaler"]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

trans-apparent HIM

Below I'm demonstrating the much-taken "approach" - but just one approach taken - in order to translate gender.

Suzanne explains that this all-too-common "approach is to infer that grammatical gender reflects an underlying gender which is could be ontological, representative or metaphorical, but, which, in any case, ought to be translated." She illustrates how "using a gendered pronoun [in English translation] can alter the literal meaning of a [Greek] clause, as it appears to do in John 1:3 [where 'the word', the actual antecedent to the English pronoun, is not masculine in any way except by Greek grammatical gender].

'All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.'"

I've added the italics to make clear the correspondences. As we all know, to make "the word" masculine in English (as with the pronoun "him") is very strange. (For background, Suzanne's conveniently posted, The Intrusive Pronoun: An Index.)

But let's give most English Bible translators a break. They commonly require absolute "faithfulness" to the original text. (Never mind that they require a merely apparent faithfulness to the Greek. Never mind their faux faithfulness. Never mind their faithfulness to gender in grammar alone - masculine grammatical gender - that defies ontology, representation, and metaphor. Never mind that theirs is a faithfulness in translation that does not allow the writer, John, wordplay later in his text -- as in John 1 verse 14 here, in which the writer gives "the word" its "flesh," which is, of course, female flesh in John's Greek, grammar femaleness that is: σὰρξ, "the masculine word became feminine flesh; ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο." Never mind the wordplay.)

Below my illustration of this typical but absolutely "faithful" approach is a demonstration by the translation of Mark 4:13-20. This is one passage that Bible translators must get absolutely right. After all, it is the absolutely exact explanation of a wordplayful parable of the absolute Teacher. If our translation falls by the wayside, then we absolutely miss "him the word" indeed.

Please note that I'm also adding another absolute "faithfulness" in the common approach to translation of the Greek: transliteration of the words. Therefore: I give here not only (A) a very faithful "translation" of the masculine gender of the pronoun but I also provide (B) a very very faithful "translation" of the sounds of Greek using TRANSLITERATION OF GREEK SOUNDS IN CAPITAL ENGLISH LETTERS [with translator explanations in brackets]. The reader, then, gets (C) absolutely faithful "transparency" to the Greek language of Mark. The translation is a faithful (A) trans-lation of the Greek male pronoun; a fixed (B) trans-literation of the Greek male sounds; and the trans-apparent rigidly Greek language of JE-SUS.

(We'll just ignore the fact that Mark does not so faithfully "translate" or "transcribe" the grammatical gender of pronouns and the true sounds of the speaker's spoken Hebrew Aramaic. I boast here: "I am doing a better job in translation of Mark's Greek than Mark does in translation of the Jewish Joshua's Aramaic"! Please read the sarcasm here. Please know that I'm not disrespecting "THE WORD" but rather am poking fun at TECHNICAL BIBLE "TRANS-LATION" APPROACHES. Here goes.)


13And HE [implied pronoun] said TO HIM AND TO HIM [figuratively, "to them"],

Do YOU MEN have no IDEA [from "eido"] what the meaning is of this PARA-BOWLED story [technically = "parable" with one and only one main meaning]?

And how then will YOU MEN GYKNOW [from "knowledge"=gnosko] all PARA-BLEs?

14 The SPERMER [lit. "sower of seed"] SPERMS the LOGOS [lit. "word"].

15And in the first place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the PARA-ODOS [in contrast to "Exodos"; lit. "those alongside the way"], where the LOGOS is SPERMED;

but when THESE MEN have ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVED [lit. "hear"; fig. "get it in the ear"],

then SATAN [note: "we all know who HE is"] comes EU-THEOS [rhymes in Greek with 'good god'; lit. "immediately"],

and HE ERECTS [lit. "lifts up"] the LOGOS that was SPERMED in the KARDIA [fig. "hearts"] of HIM AND HIM.

16And in the second place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the EPI-PETER [lit. "on the rock"] SPERMED; who, when HE and HE have ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVED the LOGOS, receive HIM EU-THEOS with CHARA [lit. "joy"];

17And HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are the possessed by a root in HIMSELF AND HIMSELF,

and HE AND HE [fig. "they"] so endures but for a PROS--> KAIROS [fig. "a time"]:

afterward, when affliction or persecution has that GENESIS of HIM AND HIM [fig. "them"] for the sake of the LOGOS,

then EU-THEOS immediately HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SKANDALIZED.

18And in the third place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SPERMED among thorns; such ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVE the LOGOS,

19And the cares of this AGE [αἰῶνος], and the deceitfulness of riches, and the EPI-THUMOS [lit. "desires on" fig "lusts"] of other things together enter in, choke the LOGOS, and have unfruitful GENESIS.

20And in the fourth place:

HE AND HE [fig. "they"] are SPERMED on good GYNESIS GYN GEN [fig. "ground" as in "geo" graphy and "geo" "LOGY"];

such as ACOUSTICALLY RECEIVE the LOGOS, and receive [implied Greek "HIM" grammatically - not "it"], and PARA-bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.


Hmmm. Maybe Μάρκος and יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎, (Mark and Joshua, aka Jesus) were taking an-Other approach to translating gendered pronouns and gendered sounds and interlated language transparencies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Top 12 Most Re-Read Posts

Here's what the majority of you have read (or re-read) at this blog since its start:

1. Sexism: A Multiple Choice (Quiz)

2. Aristotle's Sexism: the Two Best Contemporary Resources

3. Barack Obama's Favorite Book, And Yours

4. Miss Piss Tiss

5. Are We Ready for a Woman President?

6. Women Count in Bible Translation

7. Women Influencing (Aristotle)

8. Same Kind of Different As Me

9. Jobes on Better Bibles

10. Possessions and Positions of the Translator

11. The Resounding Bible (Women)

12. Suffering Suffixes: "-ική" and "-ic"

Aristotle on Rape

This week, I learn that another of my friends has been raped. And, in a horrible coincidence, on the very same day, I learn that the "Top keywords driving traffic to from search engines" are "Aristotle on Rape." I wish I could say I am more surprised by the former.

The former makes me wonder about the long long painful silences outside of anonymous meetings - grieving, again. The latter makes me want to stop blogging entirely - hoping that men and women won't come to a blog when they can hear and interpret Aristotle for themselves.

The latter comes to my attention after reading Dr. Jim West's post on Alexa ratings. I wasn't surprised to learn that many of you find this blog, "Aristotle's Feminist Subject," from the top search words "aristotle logic essays." (In fact, some time ago, I wrote a series of long posts on "logic," and once many of you found a short post I'd composed comparing Aristotle's logic with Alice Walker's womanist essaying: "Aristotle's logic vs. Alice Walker's womanism" in which you and I considered "What does this mean for your writing?." And, indeed, some of you have come across a few posts I've labeled with the word "rape.")

But "Aristotle on Rape"? You've never read anything on that here. "Aristotle on Rape" is a dissertation. It's what translators like John Gillies get in 1823 when rendering the Greek of the Rhetoric into English this way:

"Again, If Theseus did not commit wrong in the rape of Helen, neither did Paris: if the sons of escaped punishment for carrying off the daughters of Leucippus, so neither ought the elopement with Helen to be prosecuted with vengeance."

It's what translator Ernest Barker, who really likes Aristotle and his Politics, finds he must write commentary on in 1962 when translating Aristotle's words in the treatise. Researcher Michael Davis explains:
[At the end of Book 5 of the Politics, one reads] Aristotle's long and detailed list of tyrants and their outrages, mostly sexual. We are given examples of rape, pederasty, insincere pederasty, pederasty in which the beloved is insulted by being asked playfully why he is not yet with child, wife-stealing, and castration, to name a few. So [ostensibly] uncharacteristic of Aristotle is this lurid account that one translator, Sir Ernest Barker, for the only time in his entire edition, relegates an undisputed portion of the text of the Politics to a footnote. His reasons are worth relating. The translator has omitted these passages in the text.
They are matters of scandal, or at best curiosities of history such as Aristotle with his encyclopedic habit loved to collect, rather than [Aristotle's own] matters of politics and theory.
Now, it is to be taken as a certain sign that something interesting is going on when an Oxbridge don's sense of propriety is offended.
What is most peculiar about Aristotle's account of revolution is the connection he tacitly makes between sex and violence. Sexual outrages seem to be the paradigm for that hybris which
although having many parts, each of them is the cause of anger, and being angry, most men ordinarily attack for the sake of revenge and not preeminence. [Aristotle, Politics] (1311a33-36).
(Davis, "Erôs and Physics," The Politics of Philosophy: a Commentary on Aristotle's Politics, pages 90-91.)
What is staggering is how Aristotle's logic goes unnoticed. How surprised rational men like Barker and Davis can be by Aristotle's justifications for men raping women.

One only needs to start at the beginning of Aristotle's Politics to get more than hints. Aristotle is justifying his own elite Greek male dominant City State, "which is the highest of all... at the highest good." This is not just the ideal; it is the real, the status quo of Nature.

Here he explains how it must be, and how good it is:
For that which can foresee by the exercise of mind is by nature intended to be lord and master, and that which can with its body give effect to such foresight is a subject, and by nature a slave; hence master and slave have the same interest. Now nature has distinguished between the female and the slave. For she is not niggardly, like the smith who fashions the Delphian knife for many uses; she makes each thing for a single use, and every instrument is best made when intended for one and not for many uses. But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say,

"It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians; "

as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.

Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the first thing to arise is the family, and Hesiod is right when he says,

"First house and wife and an ox for the plough, "

for the ox is the poor man's slave. The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men's everyday wants....
And Aristotle goes on teaching the boys in his Aca-Demy:
Again, the same holds good between man and the other animals: tame animals are superior in their nature to wild animals, yet for all the former it is advantageous to be ruled by man, since this gives them security. Again, as between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject. And the same must also necessarily apply in the case of mankind as a whole; therefore all men that differ as widely as the soul does from the body and the human being from the lower animal (and this is the condition of those whose function is the use of the body and from whom this is the best that is forthcoming) these are by nature slaves, for whom to be governed by this kind of authority 1254b.20is advantageous, inasmuch as it is advantageous to the subject things already mentioned. For he is by nature a slave who is capable of belonging to another (and that is why he does so belong), and who participates in reason so far as to apprehend it but not to possess it; for the animals other than man are subservient not to reason, by apprehending it, but to feelings. And also the usefulness of slaves diverges little from that of animals; bodily service for the necessities of life is forthcoming from both, from slaves and from domestic animals alike.
Are we following what he writes (albeit through translation into our bar-bar-ic English)?
they say that it is monstrous if the person powerful enough to use force, and superior in power, is to have the victim of his force as his slave and subject; and even among the learned some hold this view, though others hold the other. But the reason of this dispute and what makes the theories overlap is the fact that in a certain manner virtue when it obtains resources has in fact very great power to use force, and the stronger party always possesses superiority in something that is good, so that it is thought that force cannot be devoid of goodness, but that the dispute is merely about the justice of the matter (for it is due to the one party holding that the justification of authority is good-will, while the other identifies justice with the mere rule of the stronger); because obviously if these theories be separated apart, the other theories have no force or plausibility at all, implying that the superior in goodness has no claim to rule and be master....

For a man's acts can no longer be noble if he does not excel as greatly as a man excels a woman or a father his children or a master his slaves, so that one who transgresses cannot afterwards achieve anything sufficient to rectify the lapse from virtue that he had already committed; because for equals the noble and just consists in their taking turns, since this is equal and alike, but for those that are equal to have an unequal share and those that are alike an unlike share is contrary to nature, and nothing contrary to nature is noble. Hence in case there is another person who is our superior in virtue and in practical capacity for the highest functions, him it is noble to follow and him it is just to obey
Lest it's lost in translation, that "very great power to use force" is that Greek man's ability to rape: βιάζεσθαι δύναται.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Oswald was a terrible exegete

Biddy is indeed a fascinating person. And it is to her that we owe the Christian Classic. Oswald, it seems to me, was very much an impromptu speaker. My question is how much text did he actually preach from? If he only used the verses that Biddy shows for each passage than we can confidently say that Oswald was a terrible exegete.
--Lingamish (aka David Ker)

What do you think?

Just how terrible is the exegesis of John 1:39, for example, by Oswald Chambers in his sermon? Or might Biddy Gertrude Hobbs Chambers better be to blame for his ostensible interpretation of the passage to prove a point? And how important is exegesis here or in other contexts?

(The "exegesis" of John 1:39 is on today's page of his My Utmost for His Highest. Or is it hers? Here's the original version; and the modernized one, which adds a couple of other Bible references as if these are exegeted too).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Gertrude Hobbs: Who Brought You "My Utmost for His Highest"

David Ker has a post up in which he tells he's been "reading My Utmost For His Highest. . . [by] Oswald Chambers . . . [who] writes in wartime to young men who might the next day face fire in the trenches." If you've ever read the book, maybe you've noticed what Martha Christian discovered: that Chambers himself never wrote it.

So who wrote My Utmost For His Highest? If not Oswald Chambers himself, then who wrote the "more than thirty titles [that] bear his name"?

Christian gives the answer as she tells her story of recovery research:
I came across a well-known book titled My Utmost For His Highest. It lay on my night table for a couple of days before I had time to open it. Then one day, after completing the day's responsibilities dealing with family, work, cooking, and mopping up from supper, I eagerly planted myself in a chair and opened the book. It was a whole year, however, before I noticed the initials B. C. at the very beginning.

The forward noted that the daily readings in My Utmost for His Highest originated in the early years of 1900 but that the author, Oswald Chambers, had died in 1917. . . . How can the book be copyrighted in 1935? I wondered. . . . "approximately 1917 from 1935 equals eighteen years." That got me nowhere.

It was a mystery to me. "And one needing to be solved!" . . . . why the initials B. C. but no name? They couldn't have been Oswald's, or the initials would have been O. C. . . . Why was there no name? . . . .
Since the beginning pages . . . referred to London, I decided to call England [from the U.S.A.] and find out what I could. . . . so I went through several operators on both sides of the ocean in order to narrow down the options. . . .
"I'm really sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for someone by the name of Chambers."

"Yes," the voice responded. . . .

I lost all hope that this elegant lady would ever believe I was sane, but I blurted out the reason for my call anyway. "Would you happen to know anything about a minister who was named Oswald Chambers who lived a long time ago?"

"Yes." I thought I heard her chuckle. "He was my father."

Suddenly speechless--which is unusual for me--I contained my excitement and quickly continued. "Well then, maybe you would know what the letters B. C. stand for in the front of the book My Utmost for His Highest."

She replied, "B. C. stands for Biddy Chambers. She was my mother."

"Oh! You must be Miss Kathleen Chambers!" I responded.

"Would you like to tell me who you are?"
Of course, who she is is Martha Christian. As noted, she's writing here about beginning the recovery research for her book, Searching for Mrs. Oswald Chambers: One Woman's Quest to Uncover the Truth about the Woman behind the Most Celebrated Devotional of All Times. (The quotations above are from pages 13-17).

What Christian quickly uncovers from Kathleen Chambers is that B. C. was once Ms. Gertrude Hobbs. "Biddy" was the nickname that Oswald Chambers gave Hobbs after they met. And from her earliest days (even as "Biddy" and as Mrs. Oswald Chambers and as "B. C."), she like many women remained silent and very much in the background:
Gertrude Hobbs was born into a world where a married woman could not even own property. Her inheritance from her family became her husband's property once she was married. If a wife separated from her husband, even for legitimate reasons, she had no rights of access to see her children. A divorced woman had no chance of acceptance in society again.

So much for the life of a single mother. "If Gertrude had any idea of what life would hold for her, she might have changed her mind and not been born," I [Martha Christian] muttered, shuffling through more research notes. "Not that she could have chosen, of course!" I smiled as I stacked the papers into orderly piles.

My research [for Searching for Mrs. Oswald Chambers] was giving me a headache. It's a good thing I have Kathleen to talk to, I told myself. (page 46)
After several talks, Kathleen Chambers sent to Christian a copy of a note that her father, Oswald, had written her mother in 1916. It acknowledged her contributions to him already:
When I consider how completely and nobly you have foregone all quiet civilised influences that other women have and have been living a literal hand-to-mouth existence all transfigured by your great love for me and Him, I must bow my head in dedication and say God bless thee!" (page xi).
The life story of Gertrude Hobbs, aka "Biddy" Chambers or B. C., is one of a dedicated wife and parent, and of a widow and single mother. Her story, that story which may intersect with your own story, is the story of a skilled stenographer and a wonderful book editor.

A writer for RBC ministries website notes: "Although Oswald Chambers wrote only one book. . . , more than thirty titles bear his name. With this one exception, published works were compiled by Mrs. Chambers, a court stenographer, from her verbatim shorthand notes of his messages taken during their seven years of marriage. For half a century following her husband's death she labored to give his words to the world."

The RBC link also gives other book length biographies of "Biddy" Gertrude Hobbs Chambers.

In addition, "The official web site of Oswald Chambers Publications ASSOCIATION Ltd." provides a quick online sketch of her life with Mr. Chambers.

Gertrude Hobbs remains in the background as thousands continue to read what she wrote down and edited without their knowing or asking who B. C. is. Without her, not many would know who Oswald Chambers is. And without Gertrude Hobbs "Biddy" Chambers you would have never read a single page of My Utmost for His Highest.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Word Weaving

Picture this: Jane Stranz and colleagues are weaving words in wordplay with "prayers, poems and personal stories."

Matthew's translation τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου

In an earlier post today, I wrote too quickly many of my questions as they came to me. I have others as well (like "Did John copy Matthew's phrase τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου from Matthew?" Where else does this phrase appear? Why not in any other gospel or New Testament text? Why not in the LXX? Why not anywhere else? Or was John translating directly the spoken words of Jesus? Were both John and Matthew coining something? And, more to the conversations around recently, how do second person personal pronouns relate to the phrase?).

What is fascinating is that translators can either try to lock down language, to follow and to fix The meaning of The original text when imagining The original intention of The author. Or translators make meanings also while illuminating some meanings of the original fragmented texts and the various possible meanings, intended and unintended, of the authors and speakers in the text. Doesn't this process get you asking questions?

In this post, I'd like to consider Matthew's phrase τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου. He's almost certainly translating into Greek given the context.


The context is northern Israel in around 3790 on the Hebrew calendar (or approximately 1732162 on the Julian calendar). The speakers speak Hebrew Aramaic, read Hebrew in the synagogues, and perhaps read and write Greek also. Joshua (aka Jesus) is a rabbi teaching in synagogues that get overcrowded with people trying to listen. Matthew reports this rabbi's fame: εἰς ὅλην τὴν Συρίαν; ὄχλοι πολλοὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Δεκαπόλεως καὶ Ἱεροσολύμων καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου; or fame "into the whole of Syria" . . . "crowds of many from Galil and Ten Cities and Jerusalem and Jewdea and beyond the Jordan." They're there to listen but also get healed and cured. Matthew describes them, with νόσον καὶ . . . μαλακίαν ἐν τῷ λαῷ, or "sicknesses and . . . weaknesses in the people." He gets more specific: τοὺς κακῶς ἔχοντας, ποικίλαις νόσοις καὶ βασάνοις συνεχομένους, καὶ δαιμονιζομένους, καὶ σεληνιαζομένους, καὶ παραλυτικούς, or "those having suffering, many sorts of sicknesses and sufferings had together, and plagues by deities, and plagues by the moon, those beside themselves from the detachment of paralysis."

When the crowds follow the rabbi up into the hills somewhere, he starts addressing them. He's healed and cured all of them. And Matthew starts translating what he says to them about them. (It's all creative poetry, according to English translator Willis Barnstone); here's my Englishings (not Barnstone's) to get at some of the lexical senses:

οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
"the poor of breathing"

οἱ πενθοῦντες
"the mourners of the dead"

οἱ πρᾳεῖς
"the meekly gentle"

οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην
"the hungry and thirsty for justice"

οἱ ἐλεήμονες
"the mercy givers"

οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ
"the clean of heart"

οἱ εἰρηνοποιοί
"the creators of peace"

οἱ δεδιωγμένοι ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης
"the persecuted on behalf of justice"

ὀνειδίσωσιν ὑμᾶς
καὶ διώξωσιν,
καὶ εἴπωσιν
πᾶν πονηρὸν ῥῆμα
καθ’ ὑμῶν ψευδόμενοι
ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ

"you all disparaged
and persecuted,
and spoken at
with all evil words
about you all falsely
on behalf of me"

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς
"You all are the salt of the ground of birth"

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου
"You all are the light of the ordered universe"

Somebody could write a dissertation on the creative things Joshua and his translator Matthew are doing so poetically. There is much rhetorical in the sophistic and even pre-Socratic sense of "rhetoric." For a number of reasons, Aristotle would have snarled while Sappho and Aspasia smiled in reading, in hearing Matthew's text. (Lest you've not guessed, or missed that I already tried to make it clear, the above is my English translating of Matthew's Greek translating of Joshua's Hebrew Aramaic rhetoric.)


Now as we come to what Joshua (aka Jesus) says about "light," we see a metaphor. A metaphor, of course, is fraught with problems, according to Aristotle, who can't help but use it himself. A meta-phor is a carrying to full term. A metaphor is a woman's delivery of her baby. Yes, I'm playing and not being very technical. But a metaphor, for Greeks, is a parable, an appositive, a translation. A metaphor is this before Matthew begins translating. A metaphor is a bringing together of two very separate, absolutely differentiatable, things. As Jean-Jacques Thomas, the linguist, would remind us (on page 119 of his co-authored Poeticized Language: The Foundations of Contemporary French Poetry): "Aristotle takes great care to differentiate. . . between parabolé and metaphora, or between comparison and metaphor." A metaphor is a comparison in the extreme. And we all know what Aristotle says about extremes. My point in bringing in Aristotle is that he never really left for many of us. Unless you see what Aristotle says, even if you think your favorite linguist or bible scholar said it first, you never really see how foul Jesus's language and Matthew's translating can be. The grammar is imprecise. The semantic range is atrocious. The sick dregs of humanity (which implies women too, perhaps weak females especially) are "the light of the world."

For the "tenor" of the metaphor, Matthew decides the Greek second person personal plural pronoun, the vocative address to the people (Ὑμεῖς "You all"), is good enough to begin to translate, to describe this vehicle of the metaphor, "light": "you all are the light." (Pardon my use of such technical terms of I. A. Richards's rhetoric.) The vehicle choice is enlightening, if you'll pardon my pun. In my earlier post today, I was trying to suggest that this vehicle - the Greek word Matthew choses for "light" - has been used several ways (metaphorically) with various meanings. These uses have meant the following: "man, not woman"; "human, not a god"; "the life of men," "the light of the eyes," "the light of a torch, lamp, fire, the sun, the moon, etc.," "a window," "deliverance, happiness, victory, glory, etc."; "illumination of the mind," and even, most startlingly and ironically, "the dark ring round the nipple."

Of course, it's pretty clear, from the parable that Matthew has Joshua telling right after the phrase, that the meaning is fairly focused on the kind of "light" (or τὸ φῶς) that is "shined" (or λαμψάτω) in a dark household so as to enable humans there to "see" (or ἴδωσιν). Matthew's "τὸ φῶς" - the vehicle of the metaphor - shouldn't be read (and really can't be easily read) as anything more or other than visual "light." Nonetheless, readers more familiar with uses of the Greek word in other context, although not confused in the least by Matthew's uses, may feel free to associate the word also with the earlier or different uses.

When we come to the genitive noun phrase τοῦ κόσμου, we begin to sense even more that Matthew is playing with language. Has anyone else in any extant text before Matthew's ever written τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου? Certainly, κόσμος (or kosmos) is one of those overdetermined phrases by the time Matthew uses it. It has both technical cosmo-logical uses and a plethora of metaphorical uses. Even if a Bible translator feels compelled to lock down exactly the one thing that Matthew must surely mean by τοῦ κόσμου, there is the difficulty of knowing what Joshua (aka Jesus) meant. In fact, it's impossible to know at all what Jesus said that Matthew is translating by τοῦ κόσμου. Let's let Matthew speak for himself. But even if we do that, Matthew might have "second meanings," some of which he'd disagree with if another reader confronts him with them - and some of which Matthew would agree with, saying, "I didn't mean that when I wrote it, but I can really see how it brings out what I think Joshua's meanings were. And those other nuances of meanings sure help your later readers, doesn't they?" (C. S. Lewis has some wonderful examples of "second meanings" in his chapters "Second Meanings" and "Second Meanings in the Psalms" of the book Reflections on the Psalms.) The main thing I'm trying to say in this little paragraph is that Matthew may be coining a phrase that others after him (such as John the gospel writer) will use. And that Matthew may have many intended and unintended meanings by translating the vehicle of Joshua's metaphor (i.e., as τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου).


The most precise translator of Matthew's Greek (a translation of Joshua's Aramaic Hebrew) is Ann Nyland. If you know her work, then you know she's translating for very specific purposes. Moreover, she says that "Matthew is more an accountant" than other New Testament writers and translators, and she may share his exactness. Nyland herself is "a Classical Greek scholar formally trained in all Greek dialects," who has "avoided the Biblish dialect." Nyland notes that many "Bibles [in translation] are, quite bluntly, wrong" because there has been a "deliberate ignoring of the scholarship along with censorship . . . and [a theological] tradition and reading [of a narrowly-focused] English translation back into the text, notably in the case of gender (mis)translation and anything pertaining to women." In her interview with Wayne Leman (from which I'm quoting here), Nyland actually gives one example of her more careful, more correct translating of Matthew.

Nyland is not trying to be creative or to play with words. And yet there is creative wordplay. (You could check your favorite English translation for such [unintended] creativity too).

So here is how Nyland translates a bit of Matthew 5:

14 You are the light to light up the world. A city on a hill can't be hidden!
15 And who puts a bucket over a light? Instead, they put a light somewhere where it will shine light on everything in the house.
16 So see to it that your light shines, that people see the good things you do and they will realize that the reason is God, your Father in the heavenly places.

Notice how Nyland uses "the light to light up" for τὸ φῶς. Her translation, then, emphasizes a purposeful personal verbal aspect in the noun as the vehicle of Joshua's metaphor, as translated by Matthew. This is important because Nyland is able to provide a strong parallel between (A) the tenor and vehicle of the metaphor and (B) the instruction of Jesus in v 16. The instruction is the only other place where Matthew uses τὸ φῶς. Nyland's translation there is "your light shines" which brings listeners and readers back to the parallel "You are the light to light up" (my italics). (See how Nyland's English parallels Matthew's bookend words, λαμψάτω AND ὑμῶν, around τὸ φῶς, in verse 16. See how the English in 14 and 16, around τὸ φῶς or "light", is also parallel)

Now look at Matthew's translation into Greek with Nyland's English interpolated, an interlating. See where "light" shows up on verby nouns. Watch "light" light the verbs also as well.

14 Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς [to phos] the light to light up τοῦ κόσμου· οὐ δύναται πόλις κρυβῆναι ἐπάνω ὄρους κειμένη·

15 οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον [luxnon] a light καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν [ten luxnian] a light, καὶ λάμπει [lampei] it will shine light πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ.

16 Οὕτως λαμψάτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν [lampsato to phos humon] your light shines ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τὰ καλὰ ἔργα, καὶ δοξάσωσιν τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν τὸν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

Nyland is not trying to be creative or to play with words. Matthew, an accountant type with his Greek perhaps, is not trying to be creative or to play with words. And yet there is creative wordplay here. You could check your favorite English translation for such (unintended) creativity too. (It may be a safe thing to do because Matthew's language of τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου is not so much theological or phallogocentric darkness in the realm of the Bible as "light" - in all its open, creative meanings.)

translating Light of the World

Traditionally John 8:12 and Matthew 5:14 are translated from Greek into English as follows:

"I am the light of the world"


"You are the light of the world."

But why does John translate (from Hebrew Aramaic into Greek) Jesus as saying

Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (from John 8)?

Why does Matthew translate him as saying

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου (from Matthew 5)?

In Hebrew Aramaic are "light" and "world" animate and personal? Doesn't linking these nouns with personal pronouns such as "I" and "you" create some interesting havoc?

And what if gender is introduced in the pronoun? Suzanne posts an introduction.

But how different is what Aeschylus writes (from what John and Matthew write for Jesus) when the Chorus, in the work called the Persians (918-931), say the following?

ὀτοτοῖ, βασιλεῦ, στρατιᾶς ἀγαθῆς
καὶ περσονόμου τιμῆς μεγάλης,
κόσμου τ’ ἀνδρῶν,
οὓς νῦν δαίμων ἐπέκειρεν.
γᾶ δ’ αἰάζει τὰν ἐγγαίαν
ἥβαν Ξέρξᾳ κταμέναν Ἅιδου
σάκτορι Περσᾶν. ᾁδοβάται γὰρ
πολλοὶ φῶτες, χώρας ἄνθος,
τοξοδάμαντες, πάνυ ταρφύς τις
μυριὰς ἀνδρῶν, ἐξέφθινται.
αἰαῖ αἰαῖ κεδνᾶς ἀλκᾶς.
Ἀσία δὲ χθών, βασιλεῦ γαίας,
αἰνῶς αἰνῶς
ἐπὶ γόνυ κέκλιται.

And why does Robert Potter in 1777 render that into English as follows?

O thou afflicted monarch, once the lord
Of marshall'd armies, of the lustre beam'd
From glory's ray o'er Persia, of her sons
The pride, the grace, whom ruin now hath sunk
In blood! The unpeopled land laments her youth
By Xerxes led to slaughter, till the realms
Of death are gorged with Persians; for the flower
Of all the realm, thousands, whose dreadful bows
With arrowy shower annoy'd the foe, are fall'n.

And why does Herbert Weir Smyth translate that so differently also in 1922?

Alas, my king, for our noble army, for the high honor of Persia's rule, and for the splendor of the men now cut off by Fate! The land bewails her native youth, slaughtered for Xerxes, who has crowded Hades with Persian slain. Many warriors, masters of the bow, our country's pride, a great multitude of men, have perished. Alas, alas, for our trusty defence! The land of Asia, the leading power of the earth, has piteously, yes piteously, been bowed to her knees.

Is κόσμου τ’ ἀνδρῶν better "world of men [i.e., not women]" or "glory's ray o'er Persia, of her sons" or "the splendor of the men"? Is "it" the inanimate quality or possession of man?

Is πολλοὶ φῶτες better "much light" or isn't it more "the realm" of men and not women, "a great multitude of men"?

What do bible writers using Greek mean when they talk of the Kosmos? Don't they also aware of the pseudo-Aristotle's theological cosmology, On the Kosmos (aka De Mundo)?

And might Matthew be familiar with Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics (1235b)?

For things advantageous for a healthy body we pronounce good for the body absolutely, but things good for a sick body not—for example doses of medicine and surgical operations; and likewise also the things pleasant for a healthy and perfect body are pleasant for the body absolutely, for example to live in the light and not in the dark, although the reverse is the case for a man with ophthalmia. (translated by H. Rackham, 1935)

τούτου δὲ διωρισμένου ληπτέον ὑπόθεσιν ἑτέραν. τῶν γὰρ ἀγαθῶν τὰ μὲν ἁπλῶς ἐστιν ἀγαθά, τὰ δὲ τινί, ἁπλῶς δὲ οὔ. καὶ τὰ αὐτὰ ἁπλῶς ἀγαθὰ καὶ ἁπλῶς ἡδέα. τὰ μὲν γὰρ τῷ ὑγιαίνοντί φαμεν σώματι συμφέροντα ἁπλῶς εἶναι σώματι ἀγαθά, τὰ δὲ τῷ κάμνοντι οὔ, οἷον φαρμακείας καὶ τομάς. ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἡδέα ἁπλῶς σώματι τὰ τῷ ὑγιαίνοντι καὶ ὁλοκλήρῳ, οἷον τὸ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ ὁρᾶν καὶ οὐ τὸ ἐν τῷ σκότει· καίτοι τῷ ὀφθαλμιῶντι ἐναντίως.

How can Jesus, John, and Matthew get away with personalizing and feminizing the categories of inanimate and of masculinity?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Aristotle tweets

Sometimes I wonder whether blogging wouldn't have been good for Aristotle. I wonder that almost the way Larry Norman used to wonder, "If people then could live today. . . , would Aristotle be an acid head?" Don't we have to have hope for people? Maybe, women would start commenting on his blog. Maybe he'd go to barbarians (such as my blogger friend Polycarp) for crucial tips. Perhaps he'd watch young people texting and read posts (like T.C. Robinson's on tweeting and blogging at the same time while IMing Nathan Stitt) and would feel inclined to write more about the nature of rhetoric. Do you think he'd fall into tweeting himself, trying to keep up with the late and great Hesiod, Euripides, Philip Roth, and John Updike? And if he did read something mis-attributed to him (something like "Suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind"), do you think he'd lurk on to see if anyone catches it? Would he google his own name at the complete list of Biblioblogs? Or at All in all, I think, blogging's a good thing, which is why I'm wondering about Aristotle and blogging.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jewish rhetorics of the translated text

At this blog today, we come to a text that has men arguing over the proper reading of pure texts of the bible. The text we come to is a fragmented text. It is a text of Jewish translation from Hebrew-Aramaic into Greek. I've translated it below into English - unrefined translating. (It's called John 8; at least some of it is). Before the translating, here's a bit of commentary.

In the text (John 8), the point of issue for the arguing men is an unnamed woman and the force of the "hallowed" whole text of scripture (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, "book of Torah"), the undisputed, unfragmented canonical text of Moses. The unidentified text in question may also even be a piece of the whole (perhaps a translated piece, called Numbers 5). That whole "hallowed" text (or the parts) posed questions back then ( - especially when the parts were translated from holy Hebrew to homeric Hellene). But that undisputed text of males also poses questions now. If a woman today "as a Jew" asks "Is the text sexist?" and if she answers "Of course it's sexist!" - then is she disrespecting what a man, whether goyim or Jew, sees, in opposition, as his own "non-feminist alterity"? (I'm quoting my blogger friends Rachel Barenblat and John Hobbins). So do women get a say? Or mustn't the text get the last word, according to men? Mustn't women bow to this text of men as their (1) light, (2) compass, and (3) mirror?

The text we're coming to at this blog today is that different one (John 8). That fragmented one. It is what John "as a Jew" translates after his prologue. The text continues the story, carries the themes introduced, and builds the suspense. Ostensibly, the text is also (1) light, (2) compass, and (3) mirror - for men. But is it only these? Or does it more regard the position of the woman and of the man, in contrast? And how? Doesn't the translating do more than (1) just enlighten, more than (2) simply pass one along to the right point, and more than (3) merely flip one's natural image back and around?

Is this fragmented text (1) only proposition, (2) only imposition, and (3) only transposition?

Might it also be a(p)positions as well? In other words, as if playing with words, isn't this fragmented text both an a-positioning and an appositioning? Doesn't this text of this Jew take our positions and take them away? Aren't we un-positioned as outsiders to the text and by the text? And yet, and yet, doesn't it also as well throw its positions alongside its readers' positions, alongside our positions? An appositive, a re-placing of one noun next to another noun so that they change each other? Doesn't an appositive in language give the reader agency to interpret it as one noun both against and towards the other so that each changes, not only the two nouns in the reading but the reader also?

(1) Proposition is Aristotle's method, the "light" of logic.
(2) Imposition is the method of Alexander the Great, world domination to all points of the "compass."
(3) Transposition is Plato's method and Socrates' - finding the ideal by dialectic, by that "mirror" within the apparently real.

But what of the Hebrew methods of persons above the text? Isn't the text fragmented after all? And what if the person is Joshua? See the men of that first Joshua, right after Moses, listening to a woman, a prostitute, a foreigner named Rahab. Now listen to the translator of that later Joshua, that translator named John, listening to a woman, an adulteress, a female without a name as she is brought up on charges against the text of light, the compass, the mirror, the Book of Moses. These stories are thrown violently alongside your own, aren't they? Stories of the mothers of Moses, stories of Eve the mother of translation. And aren't the methods really those of a woman, your contemporary and mine, who "as a Jew" must be brought up against the text as if "obligated to find something within it which speaks to me [to her] on a spiritual level"? If the text is "patriarchal bullshit of the highest order" - then isn't something owed "to the text to be able to move beyond that knee-jerk reaction and to find something in it which speaks to me [to her]"? A(p)positioning. In other words, rendering, interlating, translating, parallelism, parable, analogy, indirection, subjectivity, profound and profoundly self-transformative hermeneutics.

Aren't these the methods of Aspasia, the prostitute, the foreigner in Athens, the rhetorician, the one paid so much differently than the (male) sophists, the translator of texts who silently writes ephemeral words in the dirt, in the dirtiness? And so we come again to the Greek rendered by the Jew, methods rendering other methods. The Jewish methods inclusive of other methods as rendering, translating, interlating, a(p)positioning. Listen to John "as a Jew" using rhetorics "as a Greek woman." Note how this translator has his Joshua speaking words as parallels to his prologue.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

John's Greek Rhetorical Prologue: My Rhetorical English

In light of discussions about the pronoun gender of the Prologue of the gospel of John, I thought I'd translate it. And I've left it "it." But I want us to notice how rhetorical John's word choice is in Greek.

Socrates says the following when talking with his disciple Polus. The passage is from the "Gorgias" by Plato, who coins the word "rhetoric" in the dramatic dialogue. Here's some of what Socrates says, and do note the Greek in this English translation by Benjamin Jowett. It's the rhetorical, case-building Greek of John's Prologue:
O Polus, I am not a public man, and only last year, when my tribe were serving as Prytanes, and it became my duty as their president to take the votes, there was a laugh at me, because I was unable to take them. And as I failed then, you must not ask me to count the suffrages of the company now; but if, as I was saying, you have no better argument than numbers, let me have a turn, and do you make trial of the sort of proof which, as I think, is required; for I shall produce one witness [μάρτυρα, martura, testifier] only of the truth of my words, and he is the person with whom I am arguing [ὁ λόγος, ho logos, i.e., making "the statement"]; his suffrage I know how to take; but with the many I have nothing to do, and do not even address myself to them. May I ask then whether you will answer in turn and have your words put to the proof? For I certainly think that I and you and every man [ἀνθρώπους, anthropous, human] do really believe [ἐπίσταμαι, epistamai, believe], that to do is a greater evil than to suffer injustice: and not to be punished than to be punished.
John uses many of the words of Greek rhetoric, and of Plato's sophistic caricature, in combination with the Jewish notion of The Beginning. He's also following the LXX translators' rhetorical choice of naming the Beginning Book as "Genesis" or "Birthings." (Birthings is a greeky pun on the word for "woman," a word which can also mean "wife.") John's identification of the male parent (i.e., father) is often typically only associated in English translation with "The Father, God." Certainly John disambiguates plenty at later points in his gospel just which Father he and Jesus are talking about; however, John's Greek word for father in the prologue can also apply to any parent who is the male in the birthing process, to any "father." (I'm sure there's a case to be made to translate that Greek word, likewise, as "parent" or even as "a mother and a father" - but in translating today, I'm not stretching the word possibility so far.)

Now, here's my English translation of John's Greek:

Friday, June 5, 2009

a Jewish understanding of the text

Peter Kirk follows up Suzanne's posts on the gendered translation of a pronoun with "The Word: he, she or it?" Among his other fantastic insights, Peter gets at (1) what John is doing by artfully telling the story and (2) what English translators do to spoil it.

Now I want to reconsider more carefully what Suzanne says about "a Jewish understanding of the text." Isn't John's story-telling Jewish? And isn't Willis Barnstone's translating Jewish as well? Aren't they both (1) not only keeping their readers momentarily in suspense but also (2) retelling and reminding readers of the parallels to another Jewish story already told? Aren't parallels in Hebrew stories Jewish? Furthermore, isn't it interesting how Barnstone goes so far as to say that, in the Jewish stories, the Jewish "God translates divine sound into matter and being. . . through the word"?

Here's from Barnstone's (Jewish) English translation of John's (Jewish) Greek. I've italicized the translator's text below to distinguish it from two of his footnotes, which I've also included and indicated by the asterisks:

In the beginning was the word*
and the word was with God,
and God was the word.
2 The word was in the beginning with God.
3 Through it everything came about
and without it not a thing came about.
What came to be 4 in the world was life
and the life was the light of people
5 and the light in the darkness shines
and the darkness could not comprehend it.

14 And the word became flesh
and lived among us.**
And we gazed on his glory,
the glory of the only son born of the father,
who is filled with grace and truth.

*John informs us in "In the beginning was the word," Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (En arhe en ho logos) (John 1.1). God created through the word, ὁ λόγος. With that utterance God translates divine sound into matter and being, thereby bringing the cosmos, the earth, and the earth's inhabitants, great and small, into temporal existence. The creation through the word in John parallels the creation in Genesis 1.1 of the Hebrew Bible: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth": בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ (bereshit bara elohim et hashamayim veet ha-aretz). God in Genesis uses "the word" to speak the world into being through his order, "Let there be light," יְהִי אוֹר (yehi or), while in John "the word" of creation may be spoken or written, but it also is the initial cause of creation. And as in the Hebrew Bible, that word is immediately comingled with light. It has been observed that in John's prologue, the use of the logos offers a link between the divine mind and the human mind, which is rational and apprehends the word through reason, reason being another meaning of "logos." This beginning is often presumed to be a separate [Greek rhetorical, Greek literary] poem added or adapted to the gospel. . . . The logical sequence of this poem also suggests the syllogistic reasoning of the Sophists as well as the Cynics to whom leading theologians sometimes compare Yeshua. . . . More broadly, "logos" may be given multiple meanings: the word of God, knowledge, science, the Greek principle of reason ordering the universe, and a Kabbalist principle of the primacy of creating words and, before words, an alphabet of letters, so that God has the means of speaking the universe into being.

**God's word became human flesh in the person of Yeshua.

[UPDATE: It may be worth noting that Barnstone has a two-page prologue to his translation of the gospel of John, much on the "Prologue of the Gospel of John." There he gets into (what I call) the Greekiness of John's language. For example, Barnstone says, "The word in Greek is logos, and logos was a familiar philosophical term, already in Greek currency through its usage by the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus and by the Stoics. John uses logos to convey a specific message...." Barnstone has an extensive bibliography for his entire work, including the works of Elaine Pagels, from which Suzanne has quoted. I would also refer anyone interested in the Greek logos per se to Edward Schiappa's Protagoras and Logos: A Study in Greek Philosophy and Rhetoric.]

par elle, et elle a habité parmi nous, et nous avons contemplé sa gloire

Suzanne's Bookshelf offers "one example" of a Greek text that "demonstrates the enormous fallacy and extremely limited scope of any discussion of pronoun gender in translation."

The one example illustrates how,
English readers are cut off from the diverse ways that this passage could be read at the time it was written. We are cut off from how this passage is read in other modern European languages. The English translations are also committed to an interpretation which is foreign to a Jewish understanding of the text.
Read more in the post, "All things were made by her ..."

half empty/ half full

People tell me, with quite enough frequency, that I'm the "absent minded professor type." So I just love, when I've "forgotten" to get my laptop from the car after arriving far from the parking lot to the office first thing in the morning, I just love to announce to my staff members: "I 'remembered' something." Then I can with a smile on my face do the about face and go get that thing I'd "forgotten" and "remembered."

That just happened. Good morning to you too.

Before a Ph.D., I was a feminist

Before I set foot into a Ph.D. class that first semester, I bought all the textbooks assigned for Composition Theory and read one. Truth be told, it wasn't as much that I'm an overachiever (which I am) as it was that I was intimidated by the English studies folks and their vocabularies (their perspectives and ways of seeing things far different from my own as a published and professional and degreed applied linguist for sixteen years).

The book I read was Composition-Rhetoric: Backgrounds, Theory, and Pedagogy. I knew of the author, Robert J. Connors, from his collaborative work with Andrea A. Lunsford on a college handbook for writing, which one of my colleagues and I had drafted ESL student annotations for and were talking with the publisher about. I chose that book to read first because it seemed to give a good overview of the history of composition and rhetoric studies in the USA.

I remember where I was on the playground of the elementary school of one of my daughters. "Damn," I thought (but of course didn't say out loud). "Really? 'Women were definitively excluded from all that rhetoric implied.... The exclusion of women from rhetoric continued long after rhetoric ceased to play any important role in the actual affairs of government.'? Really? 'The church, of course, was increasingly where all meaningful speaking was done, and this Pauline stricture, straight out of Judaic misogyny, was taken as commandment by all later Christian thinkers. The conception of woman as the fountainhead of human sinfulness, as the type of Eve, led to an ever more insistent demand by the church that her role be passive, circumscribed, and private....' Yes, but this has been a contemporary problem in the context of American college composition and rhetoric studies? And does Bob Connors characterize Andrea Lunsford, his colleague, the way he does the American women academics of the nineteenth century who he says, because of the circumscription by male thinkers to the private, flourished in composition rather than in rhetoric where men dominated?" (I didn't know of any of the problems women rhetoricians and other men and women feminists had with Conners book when I read it - nor did I hear about the issues from the professor - and had to discover these in journals of English studies in private in the library, after the course ended.)

If I can remember, I was a feminist when I was five years old. One of my siblings had been sexually abused by a single missionary, a man. The public thing that rankled my father so was that the other missionary had cut back the cuticles of this child until they nearly bled.

This sort of thing was the first incident I remember. When I was in college in the USA, after two of my buddies missionary-kids from two different families took their own lives and their fathers made pronouncements at their funerals, there was more to remember.

Other MKs all grown now have finally spoken out about a third abuser, the cause of their own contemporary sexual dysfunctions, which they remain silent about, for whom would they tell? Who can they tell?

I remember watching with my spouse the self-made documentary of Angela Shelton, on a quest to find and to film all the other Angela Sheltons in America and finding that many of them had been raped or molested by family members, by men, and Angela herself has to film the confrontation with and denial of her own father. The professor of the Ph.D. course, the Rhetoric of Women Writers, that I was in at the time agreed at my request to show the documentary in class, which for me was a way of speaking out for the first time. Speaking out for me has been listening, had been rather numb passive listening. (I credit that professor for my adult human conversion to feminisms, for en-couraging me to research and write a dissertation on sexist rhetorics).

My son home from college interrupted me at work yesterday with his phone call, asking all of the sudden if we could meet somewhere for lunch. I put him off at first, suggesting "tomorrow." We small talked. Then I sensed something, and we finally talked then and there about some private matter of his that was deeply distressing him. Oh, I could have missed him, came so close to missing the depth of his issue, a very private thing indeed.

There are many who tell there stories now in meetings I attend where confidences cannot be broken for reasons of safety. It's hard to listen. Harder not to listen. "I was raped by the father of the children I was babysitting." "I waited until my husband left the house and erected the step ladder and jumped off so as to make sure my pregnant belly would hit first because even though abortion is legal it's a sin he will not tolerate." "Two different pastors both married men have propositioned me and my own father a deacon just tells me I've misread their meanings, of course." "My mother made me serve my little brother, washing his clothes and such, because my father was the head of the home, she said." Yes, I know it's hard to listen. And a blog is no place. Or at least let the abused blog for themselves anonymously if they must. Some of you have heard me say "Why (You Can’t Ask Me Why) I Am A Feminist: Some Frank Thoughts." But there's no reason to be a feminist for feminism's sake. And we all know that. Our personal insecurities run deep. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a Ph.D. in anything to figure that out.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What Is "It"? When "Fleshed"?

Check out a pair set of "logos" posts:

"All things were made by it ..." at Suzanne's Bookshelf


"When Did The Word Become Flesh?" at Exploring Our Matrix.

Of Paul and Pooh, Language and Logic

Yesterday's post left this suggestion that Paul borrowed his nasty word skubala (σκύβαλα) from Jesus. What do you think? Did Paul write using language that was not entirely politically correct? A few things should be clarified and carefully noticed about skubala before looking at an even more startling word that Paul borrowed.

First, the Jesus (or Joshua) whose writings Paul may be reading is the ostensible son of Sirach ( בן סירא). And the son of Jesus, the grandson of Sirach, is the self-identified translator of the writings of Sirach. All of the synoptic gospel translators (Mark, Matthew, and Luke - writing about that other Jesus) quote from this translated LXX Book of Sirach even if none quotes the word Paul appropriates. So we'd do well to see what the first translated Jesus supposedly says in Hebrew (even if the texts are lost) and how his son translates (and purports to translate) that into Greek while living in Egypt more than 100 years before Paul was born.

Second, it's not just the Greek word skubala (σκύβαλα) but how and why that particular word renders the Hebrew in a place like post-slavery Egypt that is fascinating. The word occurs nowhere prior to this use by the son of Jesus. Sylvie Honigman at the University of Tel Aviv in reading one history of the LXX suggests the Jewish translators didn't follow either the Exodus paradigm or the Alexandrian (a neo-aristotelian) paradigm but rather the Homeric paradigm when translating. Maybe Jesus's son, in translating, is coining the word from some of Homer's works. Paradigms aside, there seems enough extant lexical material to suggest this. For example, in the Odyssey, Agamemnon recounts his betrayal and murder by his wife Clytemnestra: "I threw (ballon, βάλλον) my hands around the sword as I died, but the dog-eyed (kunopis, κυνῶπις) one turned away, and, though I was on my way to the house of Hades, she didn't dare close my eyes or shut my mouth with her hands. So nothing else is more dreadful or more dog-like [kunteron, κύντερον] than a woman...." And in the Iliad, Zeus says to his wife "Nothing's more disgustingly doglike than you." [Ou seokunteron allo, οὐ σέοκύντερον ἄλλο]). And Helen has already mourned, "Slutty bitch that I am!" [eskekunopidos, ἔσκεκυνώπιδος]). If the Greek word is a translator's neologism, an awakening of dogged sexism, then a hint to its meaning as "pooh" comes from a counterpart word in the proverb of Jesus. The entire proverb (27:4) reads: Ἑν σείσματι κοσκίνου διαμένει κοπρία, οὕτως σκύβαλα ἀνθρώπου ἐν λογισμῷ αὐτοῦ. This has been translated into English by the Revised Standard Version committee as follows: "When a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so a man's filth remains in his thoughts." The word σκύβαλα is translated "filth," and the word kopia (κοπρία) "refuse." The two words work parabolically or appositively in comparison, in interlation, to define and refine one another analogically. It's sort of like what the Miller Analogies Test measures, except the proverbial parallels are to be extended, personally, to the reader's own life. The language is to be profound. What is lost in the RSV translation is the bitch-female-dog connotations of the former word (when just looking at Homeric cognates); alas, as mentioned, the Hebrew original is completely gone. We can, however, measure whether the RSV "refuse" gains much in English translation by comparing how other LXX translators have rendered Hebrew with the Greek kopia (κοπρία). The Hebrew words so translated into Greek are domen (דמן ) and 'ashpoth (אשפת) with meanings of "dung" and "piles of poo." I think Benjamin G. Wright's English (NETS) translation of the Greek of the son of Jesus is not bad: "With the shaking of a sieve, refuse remains--so a person' offal in his reasoning." But the Greek sounds more like this to me (in English): "In a shaken sifter remains a pile of crap--so does that scooped puppy poop, you mortal humans, in your own statements."

Third, then, when Paul uses skubala (σκύβαλα) in his letter to readers in Philippoi, he's already called out "the dogs" or perhaps "the bitches" (touS KUnas, τοὺς κύνας) to distinguish himself from his fellow Jews who were insisting on male (penis) circumcision as a necessary mark on the body. So he plays on this derogatory term by downplaying his own personal, physical heritage as "dog throw-up" if not "bitch shit" (SKUbala, σκύβαλα). To see the gendered issues here is not too much of a stretch. (It's not, I'm saying, much at all like Sigmund Freud, as the-rapist, discussing penis envy that isn't really there.) The language Paul chooses is dirty on purpose.

Fourth, Paul seems extremely interested as Jesus was in adult human conversion, in personal transformation. I'm talking now about the Jesus to whom Paul was committed, the one whose opening word for Mark, his first translator, was metanoeite (μετανοεῖτε). It means something like "change your mind, re-think everything!" This brings us to a second, perhaps more startling word that Paul borrowed. He borrowed a word that Aristotle coined when human language and when a human statement (i.e. logos, λόγος) was, for Aristotle, not enough. The word is "logic" (or logike, λογικὴ).

(I've gone on elsewhere about how the -ic (-ικὴ) suffix is dirty and sexist. It was so dirty that LXX translators seemed to avoid it as politically incorrect. And so when tiptoeing around words like "log-ic," "rhetor-ic," and "erot-ic" and therefore even "eros," they only slipped twice.)

So what do you think? Why does Paul slip in "logic" (or logike, λογικὴ) in his letter to Roma? It's in Romans 12:1-2, where Paul is talking about the mind, change, and re-thinking everything. Here's the text:

Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἀδελφοί διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ τὴν λογικὴν (i.e. "logical") λατρείαν ὑμῶν. Καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθαι [OR συσχηματίζεσθε] τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθαι [OR μεταμορφοῦσθε] τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς [ὑμῶν] εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον.

Here's the RSV English for comparison:

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [λογικὴν] worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do you think "spiritual" renders "logic" well? Is it really a politically incorrect word? Or does the RSV (or your favorite translation) make it otherwise? What's Paul doing with language and logic?